The freeway system is a major component of any functioning American city.
While “New Urbanists” decry the freeway system as a primary cause of the devolution of our cities, freeways also enable a large percentage of workers to reach their jobs, make it possible to buy fresh oysters in the heart of Milwaukee and deliver Milwaukee's manufactured goods from one end of the country to the other.
I’m not going to debate the virtues of freeways, but I can tell you that I personally have spent way too much of my life driving on one in particular; the loop of I-94 between Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis (which includes this intersection of I-94 and I-43 in the heart of Milwaukee.) On the other hand, if I-94 didn’t exist, I would have seen much less of my family that is spread around the Great Lakes basin.
The fact is that to interstate travelers, the freeway is the face of the city. Many commuters hardly touch the surface streets except between the freeway ramp and their parking space – often above or below street level.
But what interested me is the presence of this mammoth structure as experienced from the streets of Milwaukee.
While hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks flow overhead and in trenches below, what does the Marquette look like from one’s feet, standing on the pavement below? What does it look like from the “outside”?
On the morning I decided to shoot, the air hung with water which wrung itself out on my lenses as I worked. When I began to edit the images, I was not happy with the overall softness and they way it obscured the lines and textures. So I did something a rarely do. I opened up the Photoshop filter box.
I found that posterizing these images by limiting the number of colors and adding dark lines to edges, gave me a really satisfying effect.
The embossed designs in the concrete and metal rails and the edges of each component that define the structures stood out in the way that I had seen them. And yet the flat light that had yielded such a 2-dimensional, graphic look was preserved, resulting in a comic-book kind of look, which seems appropriate for such a monumental work.
So, I am not a big fan of urban freeways that bisect neighborhoods and emphasize the smallness of the humans who live there in their shadows. But you have to admit, this is one beautiful freeway.
Born in Detroit.
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